Grizzly bears, like most species, live to procreate. Or rather, procreate to live. Occasionally, they have done this with other species. Like polar bears.
The bear is white, but its claws are longer than a polar bear’s would be, leading some experts to suggest it is a hybrid. Genetics testing could confirm that, but the implications of the find—warmer climates, among other things—are probably not good.
Grizzly bear populations have been growing in Canada, helped in part by stricter hunting laws (the bear above was shot lawfully). But booming populations also mean grizzlies are seeking out new terrains and homelands, and, thanks to climate change, that means they’re increasingly going north, where they are finding polar bears and mating with them.
And the mating doesn’t happen by accident, since bear mating rituals can be elaborate, involving a days-long seduction.
“This isn’t just a casual one-night stand kind of thing,” Ian Stirling, a researcher for the Canadian Wildlife Service, told the Toronto Star.
The resulting bears are known as prizzlies or grolars depending on who the father is, and they can appear in all colors, though not being white-colored can be bad for polar bears, since they depend on their white fur to hide, hunt and survive amidst the ice.
Still, scientists that spoke to the Toronto Star put an optimistic spin on the news. This may be, they suggested, a way for polar bears to ensure their DNA will survive, even if the bears themselves don’t.